As a companion piece to the Fantasy Draft Dos and Don'ts as well as our Fantasy 101 feature, allow me to chime in with the Ten Commandments of Fantasy Football.
This piece is intended for beginners, so, vets, please do not feel like I am insulting your intelligence here. I do hope, however, that some of these key reminders may be of benefit to even the longest tenured fantasy enthusiasts.
10. Thou Shalt Submit Thy Lineup in Time.
We will start with this very basic but important commandment. Some leagues will allow you to submit your lineup before the kickoff of the first game of the week. (If that is the case, recall that the first game is on Thursday in Week 1.)
Other leagues will allow you to submit your lineup at any time, provided that you list all starting players BEFORE the start of their respective games.
Make sure you know what you are supposed to do and do it in time. You do not want your lineup being set to a computer-generated or Commissioner-decided default -- or, worse yet, suffer possible forfeiture of the game that week.
9. Thou Shalt Observe Thy Bye Weeks
Every year I wind up winning at least one game because some numbskull has failed to account for a bye week, and starts an unavailable player against me. Don't let that be you!
Observing bye weeks, means not only being aware of which players may be on a bye during the coming week -- but it also means planning ahead. Most of us have rosters loaded with players who share a given bye week. Even if you tried to account for this during your draft, the bye weeks will not come into play for a few weeks. By then, things may have changed, including the health (or viability) of your backups.
Many leagues maintain a maximum number of pickups that you can make during a given week. You could find yourself in a bind, if you have to use the waiver wire to seek hopeful upgrades and/or injury replacements but have not forecast bye week coverage properly.
8. Thou Shalt Work Thy Waiver Wire
What do the following players all have in common: Tyrod Taylor, David Johnson, Doug Baldwin, and Gary Barnidge?
Well, for one thing, they were all quality performers in 2015 who helped carry fantasy teams for a number of weeks. They were all likely waiver wire pickups too.
The waiver wire can be a very valuable tool. If you had a lousy draft -- and it happens to the best of us -- or the injury bug has hit you hard, do not forget about this very valuable resource. If it is first-come-first-serve, get on the ball right away. If it is a bidding format, be aggressive.
7. Thou Shalt Not Be Afraid to Seek Out a Trading Partner
If you are in a deep league, chances are that the waiver wire is pretty thin. The next best resource, then, is the rosters of the other owners in your league.
Obviously, you want to make a trade that best helps your team; that means making a deal that gives you the best return possible. Do not make the mistake of over-valuing your own players, though. If you start making silly trade offers that are designed to REALLY help your team but offer little to your opponent in return, expect a quick (and possibly angry) "DECLINED" reply.
If, however, you try to be fair and build a reputation as a willing and fair trader, other owners will come to you. That will place you in a position of power going forward.
6. Thou Shalt Not Hold Silly Grudges
This applies to both the other owners in your league -- as well as the players on your team.
Concerning the former, you are likely to find at least one owner in your league that you just don't like. Maybe the guy is a bragger. Maybe he is an obnoxious Cowboys fan. Maybe there is just something about him that rubs you the wrong way. Meanwhile you are weak at RB but loaded at WR -- and you observe that this guy is loaded at RB but weak at WR. He seems like a logical trading partner, but you do not want to deal with him...
See where I am headed with this?
The same is true of players. Maybe you are in a Keeper League and have Eddie Lacy on your team. He was supposed to be the centerpiece for your 2015 team. Except, he performed more like bench player last season -- and it makes sense that you still have some misgivings about him heading into the 2016 season. So you decide not to hang onto him.
5. Thou Shalt Not Be a Homer
If you are a fan of the Packers and have Aaron Rodgers as your fantasy QB, this may not apply to you.
However, if your team is the Los Angeles Rams and Case Keenum (or Jared Goff...) is your man, well, you need to be smart about things. Likewise, you are not a disloyal Rams fan if you decided to draft Russell Wilson. Finally, do not bench Julio Jones just because he is playing against your beloved Rams that week.
4. Thou Shalt Not Rely on Thy "Gut"
I am not saying that you should ignore your instincts -- just do not rely on them exclusively.
That is, make sure you do all of your homework, evaluate the match-ups, examine which players are the most consistent, etc. Then, if you are torn between a couple of players and want to rely on your gut to tell you which player to start that may be OK.
Just be forewarned: that "gut" feeling may be the after-effects of eating some bad sushi.
3.Thou Shalt Not Overrate Thy Match-ups
Yes, the match-ups are important every week. But they should not be taken as gospel. If a player is on a tear and has been a reliable starter for you, it is foolish to bench him just because he faces a tough opponent (at least on paper) that week.
Conversely, do not elevate a bench player's stock simply because he has a "favorable" match-up.
Use the match-ups to help decide between two closely rated players or to help you when looking for an emergency fill-in -- not to make weekly decisions about every starting spot in your lineup.
2. Thou Shalt Play Thy Healthy Players
This seems so simple, but you would be amazed at how many championships are lost because fantasy owners refuse to abide by it.
First off, you need to do your homework and keep yourself apprised of a player's status. Just as important, even if you have followed a player's status right up until game time (given his "Questionable" or "Doubtful" status) and happily discovered that he will play, that does not necessarily mean that it is wise to start him.
Better to start a player that you know is 100% healthy than a player who is hobbled and whose play may suffer as a result.
This is especially true when gauging between a player with an early start, who is healthy, versus an injured player who plays in a late game. If that latter player winds up not playing, your options may be EXTREMELY limited.
1. Thou Shalt Start Thy Studs
This pretty much sums up all of the other commandments (except for possibly #2).
We roll out our Sit or Start feature every Thursday. (Warning an early spoiler for Week One's Sit or Start ahead...)
In the first week, we will make the observation that Cam Newton will face a fierce Denver defense (in Denver no less) that ranked #1 last season in terms of fewest fantasy points allowed to QBs and made a mortal of Newton in the Super Bowl. We will also point out that rookie Dak Prescott in his first-ever start will get a shot at a Giants defense that ranked next-to-last against fantasy QBs in 2015. So by induction, someone is going to ask if they should start Prescott over Newton. (You know who you are!) How do you think we should answer?
It is simple. If you have a fantasy stud, like Cam Newton, you start him EVERY week, regardless of match-up, unless he is hurt or on a bye. Period.
Hope this primer helps set the mood for the excitement of the coming season! Good luck to you all, and go kick some butt!